Negotiations for a June bout between unified middleweight Champion Gennady Golovkin (37-0, 33 KOs) and WBO middleweight titlist Billy Joe Saunders have reportedly fallen through. According to Chris Mannix with Yahoo! Sports, Team GGG will focus on a September clash with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs), who faces Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. on May 6th.
The unification fight was expected to take place in Astana, Kazakhstan at EXPO 2017, an international exposition that will focus on future energy production. It was rumored that the government of Kazakhstan was ponying up $10 million dollars to place the fight at the expo. However, Tom Loeffler of K2 promotions tempered expectations in late March, saying that the exact date of the fight was still being negotiated.
If the reports of the abandoned negotiations are true, the boxing world has lost the chance to have the first undisputed middleweight champion since Jermain Taylor outpointed Bernard Hopkins in 2005.
Take some time to ponder this. Boxing hasn’t had an undisputed champion in any weight class in over eleven years. Jermain Taylor was in fact the last undisputed champion, and he was immediately stripped of his IBF title for choosing a rematch with Bernard Hopkins instead of defending against the IBF’s opinion of a mandatory challenger, Arthur Abraham.
Such is life in the current era of boxing. To rise to the status of “Undisputed Champion of the World” a boxer must defeat multiple opponents simultaneously. First there is the boxer opposite him in the ring, and then there are the heads of each sanctioning body, looking like some heinous beast of Revelation, all toothy grins and dripping with slime, contracts in hand, looking for the best way to wring an extra drop out the dry rag that is professional boxing.
But all the obstacles are moot if a fighter does not pursue unification. By abandoning a June match with Saunders, Golovkin once again puts his success in the hands of Golden Boy Promotions. GBP claimed that a June bout would not leave enough time to properly promote a Canelo-GGG match in September. For all the talk of “all the belts,” it appears that Team Golovkin and K2 Promotions have again chosen to chase Canelo in hopes of a September showdown. It’s a negotiations rematch, and Team Canelo opens a heavy favorite.
As The Boxing Tribune’s own Danny Howard wrote here, Team Golovkin knows that the $15 million dollar offer reportedly made by GBP last year, while only amounting to 10-20% of the fight’s total projected revenue, is unlikely to still be valid. From a revenue standpoint, GGG is a clear “B-side.”
K2 Promotions and HBO have pointed out for years that GGG is not yet a Pay-Per-View star. The reported 130,000-170,000 PPV buys for his match with Daniel Jacobs confirms this. And at 35 years old it’s doubtful that Golovkin will ever be the draw his management wants him to be.
By contrast, Alvarez produced 300,000 buys against Liam Smith and 900,000 versus Miguel Cotto. His bout with Amir Khan is more difficult to nail down, doing between 332,000 and 600,000, depending on which stuffed suit you subscribe to on Twitter.
As a boxer that is not benefitting from/tethered to the PPV model, Golovkin prefers to fight three or four times per year. He relies on ticket sales, foreign TV money, and merchandizing to generate income. He also claims to stay sharp and in-shape by fighting more than most champions today.
He fought only twice in 2016, wiping one date off the calendar while waiting for Alvarez, getting avoided via the incestuous antics of the Eubank clan (enter Kell Brook), and watching a December 10th fight with Daniel Jacobs slip to March 18th so Jacobs could negotiate himself 40% of the purse.
Golovkin has made it clear that the undisputed championship is his top priority. The focus on Canelo in 2016 was a largely a byproduct of this goal. All the more surprising then that Team GGG is foregoing a chance to unify the titles now that Alvarez no longer holds a title at 160.
Alvarez won the WBC middleweight title from Miguel Cotto in November 2015 and was ordered by the WBC to defend the title against Golovkin. Both sides agreed to an interim bout before finalizing negotiations. Golovkin defended against IBF mandatory Dominic Wade in April 2016 and Alvarez fought Amir Khan on May 7th. On May 18th, six days before the negotiations with Golovkin would go to purse-bid, Golden Boy Promotions announced that Alvarez would vacate the WBC title rather than fight, but would continue to pursue a fight with Golovkin.
Unhindered by what Alvarez called “artificial deadlines,” GBP began negotiating from the position of strength that they currently hold. It is a tiresome and well-worn situation, interesting only to fervent fans and people who read Henry Kissinger biographies.
Will 2017 be a repeat of 2016 for Golovkin? Will the dream fight with Canelo again fall through, leaving him to scramble for a matchup with a top 15 opponent? If GGG had unified the division in June of this year, a Canelo-Golovkin bout (assuming Chavez Jr. does not pull the upset) for the undisputed middleweight championship would have been the biggest fight in boxing, but a showdown for three of the four major belts would still be one of the top spectacles of the year.
For those only interested in “big money fights,” today brought good news and bolstered hope for a superfight. For the rest of the boxing world it is the first bit of bad news in a year that, we must admit, has been curiously good. Probably better than we deserve.